Twitter for authors – What do you say?

June 3rd, 2013

New Twitter-ers (or tweeps) often think their first tweet is like entering a crowded room and shouting. In fact, it’s more like going into an empty room and muttering quietly to yourself.

That’s because only your followers see what you say. At first, you don’t have many followers. So feel free to experiment.

Social media company @Hubspot analysed the most popular tweets by measuring the ‘most and least retweeted words’. The most popular words include ‘you, please, retweet, post, blog, free and great’. The least popular words include ‘I, bored, tired, bed and watching’. They concluded that people want positive things from Twitter - your followers don’t want to hear you moan, and they are interested in new posts, as well as anything relevant to their own lives. Although Twitter can be very supportive when you are ill or have a disaster.

Hubspot’s analysis also suggested that, if you’re on Twitter to raise your profile, the most effective number of tweets a day is 4-5. And Social media trainer @zoe_cairns suggests that your Tweets should fall into four roughly equal categories: conversations, articles, tips and promotions.

Start with conversations. You can click ‘reply’ to anyone about anything. Saying ‘I loved your book’ is a good way to start tweeting without feeling too silly. The tip here is that if you start your tweet with the other person’s @name, then only people who follow you BOTH will see the conversation between you.

So if you want to be generous in your compliments, use their @name later in the tweet. If I tweet: ‘@louise_candlish I loved The Day You Saved My Life’, that tweet will only be seen by those who follow both me and Louise. But if I tweet ’I loved The Day You Saved My Life by @louise_candlish’, then everyone who follows me will see it.

In theory, it is poor Twitter etiquette to have long exchanges with the same people all the time, because it clutters up the Twitterfeed of people who follow you both. You’re supposed to take it to text, email or direct message. But that’s how some people like to use Twitter. Those who don’t like it can unfollow them.

Now for articles. When you write something new on your website, tweet about it. If you find an interesting article in a newspaper, magazine, or on someone else’s website, tweet it, with full credit and a link. It’s good publicity for them, and it makes your twitterfeed a useful source of information. If you’re a writer, tweet articles about writing and publishing. And follow people who tweet articles about writing and publishing. Everyone gets to hear what’s going on, and it’s always interesting to hear how other writers work. Both @SophieHannahCB1 and @elizabethbuchan have tweeted links to some unpublished writing – for example, a passage which the editor has cut, or which has relevance to the news today. This offers interesting insights, and helps build interest for the book when it is published.

Next up is tips. You can tweet writing tips like ‘The best advice my writing professor gave me: convert exposition to ammunition’ from supreme story coach Robert McKee (@McKeeStory) . Or you can tweet tips on the latest good read, such as @mandybaggot’s ‘Amazing book reviewer @DizzyCLB  gives 5 stars to @patriciasands The Promise of Provence’. If you write in a specialist area, you can tweet snippets of interest – historical novelist @chadwickauthor has been giving King John’s itinerary for 1205AD in a series of daily tweets. Crime writer @MRHall_books links tweets to tips on crime writing (his seven secrets of crime writing series on Facebook is excellent).

I’ve left the tricky one till last. Promotions. How much self-promotion should you do? In theory, one in four tweets could be promotional.  ‘Promotion’ means news of your book, competitions, and RT-ing reviews and compliments.

The last two are the subject of much ‘Twitter etiquette’ indignation. RT-ing good reviews is a nice way giving the reviewer or blogger more publicity. Everyone does it. But ‘Your book was so fabulous, I cried all night’ is a little trickier. Even so, I’ve noticed that many people who complain most about others RT-ing compliments do it themselves occasionally. So think about the 1 in 4 rule. If you’ve tweeted about your book a lot recently, RT-ing compliments is probably too much. But if you get the odd compliment, you’re maybe entitled to pass it on. What do you think?

And one more tip from @zoe_cairns: find out what days and times your followers are on Twitter using a programme called . Then schedule your promotional tweets, articles and tips, so when you check into Twitter during the day, you can enjoy just having conversations. For information on scheduling tweets, RT-ing and other technical terms see my earlier articles. What’s your best tip? Let me know.

4 Comments already, do join in...

  1. Mandy Baggot Says:

    June 3rd, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    Great post, Nina and really helpful!


  2. Phyllis T. Smith Says:

    June 5th, 2013 at 12:40 am

    This was so helpful. Thank you so much!

  3. Nina Bell Says:

    June 5th, 2013 at 8:44 am

    Thanks for leaving a comment, and I’m glad it was helpful. I’m bracing myself to try to do the same for Facebook, but it is not my natural metier!

  4. Phyllis T. Smith Says:

    June 5th, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    Would love to read a post on Facebook. Thanks again!

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